As I was saying…
With apologies to the late Jack Paar, who uttered those words his first night back as host of the old “Tonight Show” after a three-week absence in 1960, the Monitor returns this week after its own little hiatus.
A number of readers called or e-mailed over the past several weeks, anxious for the column to resume. I thank all who wrote or called for their kind words. Every writer thrives on knowing that his or her work has found an appreciative audience.
Speaking of appreciative readers, the Monitor lost two of them almost simultaneously one year ago, and this week’s column is dedicated to their memories.
From the moment I started at The Jewish Press some fourteen years ago, Irene Klass treated me more like a family member than an employee, calling me regularly not just at the office to discuss the paper but at home as well, for reasons both professional and personal.
She always wanted to know what was going on in my life, and she did so in a manner that never seemed prying or intrusive. She would call my wife on occasion just to tell her how much I meant to The Jewish Press and how happy she was that I was part of the paper. She always made me feel that coming to The Jewish Press was the best decision I ever made – something I feel to this day.
Irene – whenever she called she would always say “It’s Irene”; not “Rebbetzin Klass” or “Mrs. Klass,” just “Irene” – would make a point of letting me know whenever an article or column of mine resonated with her. And while I’m certain there were times she didn’t agree with something I wrote, she never told me so. There was no second-guessing with her; if she knew you had the best interests of The Jewish Press at heart and you were doing whatever you could for the betterment of the paper, that was good enough for her.
When The Jewish Press endorsed Republican George W. Bush for president in 2000, a number of readers made their distaste known, with several threatening to cancel their subscriptions. These readers – thrilled that the Democratic nominee, Al Gore, had chosen not just a Jew but an observant Jew, Sen. Joe Lieberman, as his running mate, and worried that the younger Bush had inherited his father’s less than warm feelings toward Israel – couldn’t understand our endorsement.
I had only recently been invited to join the editorial board and Irene knew I was one of the members who’d pushed for the Bush endorsement. Even though the majority of members felt as I did, I was still the new kid on the block, and as the negative feedback mounted (there were plenty of positive responses as well, but the naysayers had all the passion), I had to wonder how Irene felt. Almost as if she sensed my discomfort, she called to tell me not to give it any thought – the paper had made its choice and would survive a few canceled subscriptions.
Irene’s son-in-law Dr. Ivan Mauer, the husband of Jewish Press associate publisher Naomi Klass Mauer, always found time, despite a busy medical practice, to call with a compliment or a friendly suggestion. He’d invariably begin every phone conversation with, “I know you’ve got more important things to do than talk, but I just wanted to quickly tell you…”
Whenever he would drop by the old offices of The Jewish Press, usually to pick up Naomi from her second-floor office at the end of a workday, he made a point of taking the elevator up to my office on the third floor just to say hello.
A voracious reader, Ivan devoured not just books but periodicals of almost every variety. He had a particular interest in political magazines and subscribed to just about all of them. He never missed a Media Monitor column and relished trying to set me straight when he disagreed with me.
Even though Dr. Ivan and Rebbetzin Irene are no longer here in the physical sense, I can’t help but think they’re still part of the readership of The Jewish Press. I know I sense their presence whenever I sit down to write a column.